Drumming up a good time in Landover
Second annual festival attracts African-American talent and treasure
They were attracted by the loud, rhythmic beats as parents and children pounded on African djembe and djun-djun drums.
But instructor Baba Arthur Coe refused to let newcomers sit and watch on the sidelines.
‘‘There’s no watching,” Coe said. ‘‘There’s participation.”
Coe led a giant circle of parents and children in a West African drumming session to kick off the complex’s second annual African-American Festival in Landover Saturday.
Families throughout the county and parts of Washington, D.C., came to the free festival, which opened with African drumming and dance classes at 10 a.m. and featured African storytelling and a natural hair care workshop before ending with food tasting late afternoon.
Lisa Owens, Sports and Learning’s youth and community programs manager, is in charge of the center’s Black History Month programming. Owens said once she formed a vision of what she wanted to see in this year’s program, she got in contact with presenters such as Coe, who has taught drumming classes at the center. Coe’s wife, Mama Lakita Stukes, also teaches West African dancing and held a class following Coe’s on Saturday.
Coe, 60, of Silver Spring has performed African drumming for more than 20 years.
‘‘Most of the children involved with it are healthy, involved academically [and] don’t have time to deal with some of the nonsense going on in our community,” Coe told the crowd.
Coe encouraged parents and children to check out African-American dance classes in their community. He said he hopes people will gain an appreciation for African drumming and dancing, and that the day’s events would ‘‘spark an interest in their ancient history.”
Bowie resident Lelia True learned about the festival through a Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission e-mail and decided to bring her son, William, 3. True said she would have liked to stay for the dance class but felt William, who was a bit fidgety, would not last too long.
‘‘I really like the opportunity for William to see something a little different,” True said. ‘‘I really liked the fact he could participate. It’s just a little long. An hour of drumming is enough.”
LaDawne White of Washington, D.C., and her sons, Travis White, 4, and Theotric White Jr., 5, stayed for the drumming and dancing classes.
‘‘I was looking for something for the kids to do today, just something for them to get out of the house and a way for them to celebrate Black History Month interactively,” White said.
White, who thought the festival was ‘‘well coordinated and well attended,” enjoyed both the fact it was free and there were activities such as the dancing and storytelling to engage small children.
‘‘I think they like it so far,” White said of her sons. ‘‘They can get out on the floor, take off their shoes and get out and dance.”
About 25 vendors attended this year’s festival, selling African jewelry, dolls and clothing. Owens said most of the vendors are from the county but this year the festival also attracted one woman, Tonya Roberts, from New York City.
After seeing a festival flyer at D.C’s Dance Place, Roberts signed up as a vendor, bringing handmade jewelry and children’s clothing embroidered with Adinkra symbols she brought from her visits to Ghana. Adinkra symbols are images attached to proverbs or different meanings such as the ‘‘Funtunfunefu Denkyemfunefu,” the image of Siamese crocodiles joined at the stomachs symbolizing unity. Roberts said a friend of hers in New York City embroiders the symbols on the clothing.
Lisa Sanford of Bowie hoped to connect everyone, regardless of race, to that culture and others by promoting ‘‘ethnic scrapbooking.” Sanford said she is leading a grassroots movement to make scrapbooking more popular among the African-American and Latino communities.
Her book, ‘‘Ethnic Scrapbooking,” encourages people to preserve their heritage through scrapbooking and includes tips on how to decorate pages, and examples of designs and pictures used from her best friend’s worldly travels. Pages include scenes from more than 40 countries.
‘‘You cross cultures every day in your life,” Sanford said. ‘‘It’s a matter of, ‘Are you conscious or aware of it.’”
Sanford’s sample page was a picture of her grandson as a newborn in 2005 featured with five generations of her family and placed underneath the word ‘‘umoja,” which is Swahili for ‘‘unity.” Sanford recommended people look no further than arts and crafts stores like AC Moore and Michaels to purchase materials rather than spend hundreds of dollars on software and printers.
Owens said she hopes families left the facility learning something new about African culture and feeling relaxed and in a good mood.
‘‘You want families to come out,” Owens said. ‘‘You just need a day to spend with your family and spend a fun time.”
E-mail Natalie McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org.